ONNIT Labs is a very successful supplement marketer. And one of their multi-million dollar home runs has been Alpha Brain. And right on the bottle and here on the top of the web page about Alpha Brain are the comforting words “clinically studied.” My guess is, for most consumers this is enough. How many of their hundreds of thousands of Alpha Brain customers have actually taken the time to follow the link to the research?
Well, let’s do that for a second and see what’s behind the science of Alpha Brain’s success. https://www.onnit.com/clinical-studies/
Here’s the graph on the web page about the clinical study of Alpha Brain.
It appears on this one factor of the study, The California Verbal Learning scale, Alpha Brain had some significant advantages over time. But what is the graph really showing? Is the movement, over 45 days, from 11.2 to 12.7 very significant? And why did the placebo folks also have an increase in their recall, even as minor as it is? Again, from a marketing standpoint, this is brilliant, because I’m guessing that most consumers will be satisfied by this graph and buy or continue to buy (subscribe) to this magical “memory & focus” potion.
But, this clinical information above leaves out a very significant part of the “study” done for Onnit on Alpha Brain.
The study was never run. The results, the PDF, if you download it, were only for a “proof of concept” of an actual study to be done. I would assume that if Onnit did the actual study that the results would now be available on their website. But they didn’t ever do the study. On their “clinical trials” web page they leave that major detail off the information presented without a download of the PDF. On their own web page, they left out the very important words “A Proof of Concept” for a study. Okay, so we’re talking marketing here. And technically they are not lying, they are just withholding a huge chunk of information that might put a glimmer of doubt in their enthusiastic consumer’s minds.
Well, what does the proof of concept say in the actual data that Onnit collected on Alpha Brain?
First who was tested? How many people? How were they qualified?
Wait? What? The “proof of concept” was only run on 17 people? And they were between the ages of 18 – 35? How does this apply to the major bulk of Onnit’s target market for Alpha Brain? Are young people concerned about “memory & focus”? I suppose they might be, but I’d guess Onnit has a much larger demographic in mind. Perhaps a market for people more of my age, 55 and older who are looking to improve their cognitive function and decrease the decline that seems to take place as we age. But the study was done on only 17 people under 35-years-old.
How does this make you feel about Onnit’s breakthrough and “clinically studied” Alpha Brain? I’d have to say I was disappointed by the study and the fact that it was not a study at all. It reads more like a marketing document for some early funding partners looking to invest in Onnit.
I see this marketing ploy by Onnit to be egregious. If they are so successful with this supplement, shouldn’t they put some of their millions into actually doing the study the piloted on their magical elixir? Shouldn’t they study a fuller demographic and include some older people in the mix? And what about women vs. men in the chemistry of this supplement? When “clinically studied” becomes a marketing tag rather than a scientific claim, it looks like Onnit is up to some shady salesmanship. It’s working! Not only is Alpha Brain Onnit’s most successful product, they’ve driven the company’s growth on the expansion of the marketing of Alpha Brain and it now shows up in grocery stores like a vitamin. It’s not a vitamin. And the clinical study was NEVER DONE.
Here is my open letter to Onnit Labs:
I would like you to actually do the study on Alpha Brain you share with us on your website. Your 17-person proof of concept is not a real study. And you are kind of lying in the marketing of your most successful product.
What do you say?
UPDATE: Onnit Labs Responded with a new link.
Okay, looks good. Looks more official. Here’s what the abstract of their real study says.
I have asked Onnit if they would provide me with the full study, since the download is not free.
Conclusions. They did do a follow-on study. But they only tested 63 people. And if you assume that 50% of those people got the placebo, well… Also, they again studied very young brains. I’m not sure that demographic is the real consumer of Alpha Brain.
Let’s see if they give me the complete study.
Thanks to ONNIT for responding at all.
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